I’ve been looking for a jumping off point for this post, and today’s Daily Prompt provided just that starting line.
As I’ve now said multiple times, I was in Washington DC last week, and was reminded every day why DC is one of my favorite cities. There are the obvious things, of course – the monuments, the buildings, the museums. And then there are the more subtle things – the energy, which is rivaled only by New York City for me; the men and women in suits that look like they’re on a mission to save the world; the guys in black that are patrolling the roof of the White House and that you can see if you look really closely.
I share my birthday with Abraham Lincoln (Charles Darwin, too, though that doesn’t get us anywhere in this post). Since I was small I have had a fascination with Mr. Lincoln, almost an obsession. One of the manifestations of that interest involves visiting the Lincoln Memorial any time I am in DC, and preferably at night. The walk this time took me through the WWII Memorial;
The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (which really is stunning at night);
And then finally to see Mr. Lincoln:
My time spent at the Memorial always leaves me feeling both invigorated and melancholic, if that is even possible. I am inspired by his life and his work ethic, and being there makes me feel that I am a part of something much larger than myself, something grand and glorious. But I get melancholic both at the sense that my life is passing and with each day it becomes less likely I’ll ever change the world, and also in that way melancholia always creeps up when you’re in a temple to remember the dead.
This trip, though, introduced a new introspection and thought process centered on the idea that Mr. Lincoln would disapprove of us today. That he’d look at all of the fighting and bickering and gridlock and lack of progress and he’d get his hackles up and tell us all, in that high nasal voice of his, to knock it off. Knock it the hell off.
What does this have to do with the Daily Post prompt about coins in a fountain? I did not take the below picture, which is almost certainly from the FDR Memorial (which I visited but didn’t photograph), but I saw these signs everywhere, as well as the clear evidence that they were being ignored:
This illustrates my point better than I ever could with words. This thing we have – the United States of America – is a precious thing, and a startlingly young thing in the grand scheme, and no guarantee exists that what we have must endure for ages. Instead what we have is an experiment that will only ever be as good and as successful as we make it, each of us. Sure there are big decisions every day that we don’t understand – things like the budget, and health care, and military involvement around the world – and that we can’t influence.
But there are millions of small choices made every single day, the sum of which decides whether we have, for example, a clean and poignant fountain or a broken puddle full of loose change. I want to live in a country that has the former, and the only way I know to do that is to learn, and care, and teach. I’ll be bringing my sons to these places, and I’ll be teaching them that these are THEIR places, and that those places deserve our respect. That’s the least we can do to pitch in and make this whole thing work.
To make it a place I’d be proud to show Abraham Lincoln around.
Also, keep your pennies in your damn pockets.